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Taking on the stigma of mental illness

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In honour of “Mental Illness Awareness Week," the Fort Frances branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association will be holding its fifth-annual "Steps Against Stigma” here on Wednesday, Oct. 4.

And for the second year, the 1K and 5K walk/run will be an evening “glow” event.

“The idea is to get people to start thinking about mental illness and the stigma that's associated with it,” said CMHA-FF educator and trainer Nancy Daley Fulton, noting Kristi Albright and Christina Hahkala once again will be spearheading the event.

“The stigma that's associated with it is probably the biggest barrier that exists for people when they know something's wrong and they need to get help, but they're worried about what people might think,” she added.

“So they don't go for help and people remain sick.”

The stigma of mental illness also can cause individuals to lose support from family and friends, as well as employers and workmates, Daley Fulton noted.

“And so we're really trying to get people to become aware that mental illness is an illness, and it's something that can be diagnosed and treated effectively,” she explained.

“And that people can have the same lives as anybody that doesn't have a mental illness—with the proper treatment and supports.”

Daley Fulton said she once read mental illness is not seen as a “casserole illness.”

“When somebody is ill at home, when somebody loses a loved one, when somebody is diagnosed with cancer or diabetes, people rally around them and they bring casseroles, food, everything like that,” she noted.

“When somebody is diagnosed with a mental illness, everybody goes away.”

The walk also promotes “the well-known fact that physical exercise is good for mental health as well as our bodies—and so is socializing,” Daley Fulton said.

“Steps Against Stigma” is a fun activity that involves people of all ages from both sides of the border (some of whom even bring along their dogs).

It draws more and more participants each year—despite often inclement weather.

And with last year being the first evening “glow" event, Daley Fulton could not believe what people did to "glow themselves up,” adding there were people of all ages participating.

Each participant gets a glow necklace when they arrive, but they're urged to go all out and take the “glow” theme to the extreme again this year.

A prize will be awarded for the “best glow," so get creative and "get into the spirit of it,” Daley Fulton enthused.

Opening ceremonies (including warm-up exercises with Energy Fitness and DJ Party Rock) will be held at 7 p.m. at the Sorting Gap Marina, followed by the 1K and 5K walk/run at 7:30 p.m.

This is a fun walk; it is not a timed event, although walkers can time themselves if they're so inclined, Daley Fulton noted.

Water will be provided at rest stations along the route.

Pre-registration costs $10. If you wait until the day of the event, it will cost $15.

“We really encourage people to pre-register,” said Daley Fulton, noting not only does it save participants five bucks but it helps organizers get the walk started on time.

“Last year, we were still waiting for people to register—the line was out the door of the Sorting Gap—when it was time to start the first walk,” she recalled.

Registration forms are available at CMHA-FF Fort Frances and Energy Fitness, as well as online at www.cmhaff.ca

Door prizes for one adult and one child will be drawn after the event (you must participate in the event and be present to win).

A healthy snack also will be provided afterwards.

For more information, contact Albright at 274-2347 ext. 203 or Hahkala at 274-2347 ext. 214.

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